In a landmark verdict, the Supreme Court today said that privacy is a constitutional right. 9 judges were unanimous in their finding, though they cited different reasons for their conclusion. The verdict is a major setback for the government, which had argued that the constitution does not guarantee individual privacy as an inalienable fundamental right.
1. The right to privacy "is protected as an intrinsic part of Article 21 that protects life and liberty," the Supreme Court ruled.
2. The order is based on an array of petitions that have challenged the mandatory use of Aadhaar cards which assign a unique 12-digit ID to every citizen.
3. Today's verdict does not comment on whether the government's demand for Aadhar to be linked to all financial transactions amounts to an infringement of privacy.
4. That decision will be taken by a separate and smaller bench of the Supreme Court. But experts said that today's ruling could prompt the government to tweak its arguments in that case.
5. All fundamental rights come with reasonable restrictions, said noted lawyer Prashant Bhushan. Whether Aadhar can be seen as a reasonable restriction has yet to be decided, he cautioned.
6. Judges had earlier said that Indians are already providing vast troves of personal information to online platforms like Apple and Google.
7. In today's case the petitioners had stressed that the Aadhaar database was originally presented as a purely voluntary programme that offered to provide every Indian with an identity card.
8. Aadhaar is essential for all services including tax returns said by the Government, opening bank accounts and securing loans, pensions and cash transfers for those entitled to welfare schemes. The suggestions that has been rejected that the Aadhaar programme, set up in 2009 by the previous Congress-led government, poses a threat to civil liberties.
9. Aadhaar identity card links enough data to allow profiling said by the critics because it creates a comprehensive profile of a person's spending habits, their friends and acquaintances, the property they own, and a trove of other information.
10. There are fears the data could be misused by a government that argues Indians have no right to privacy. Aadhaar details being accidentally released there have been recurring reports, including on government websites. UIDAI, the agency that governs Aadhaar, has repeatedly said that its data is secure.